The 15th of May marks the anniversary of the death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, eighteenth-century courtesan and mother of the Prince of Wales’ reputed daughter.
Grace died in Ville d’Avray, Paris, in 1823, having lived a long and tumultuous life filled with adventure and experiencing both the highs and the lows of the society of her age. Although she is best remembered as a demi-rep, there is so much more to her than that: she was not merely the mistress of titled men, but a strong woman in her own right, one who lived on her own terms. Sadly though, at the end of her life, Grace had little left; her one remaining close family relative was her young granddaughter who she adored, and Grace’s dying regret was that she had nothing but her best wishes to leave her. She was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery on the outskirts of Paris.
Grace left a will, one which caused a little trouble to the 1st Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, the guardians of her granddaughter. To the Cholmondeleys fell the trouble of sorting out her affairs as they related to England and to her granddaughter. An adopted daughter, formerly known as Miss Staunton, laid claim to Grace’s French assets.
The marquess hired an English attorney, Mr Allen, to sort the matter out. In his accounts he lists a payment for a woman he described as Grace’s sister, to cover the cost of a carriage she took to Sèvres to testify to Grace’s handwriting. A sister? Grace only had one known sister, Jacintha, who had died some years earlier, although a shadowy third sister is mentioned in some sources. In our biography, An Infamous Mistress, we suggest who this lady could be, the one lady left in Grace’s latter years who had both an interest in Grace’s will and a genuine affection for her.
Our biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the product of many years of research into her life, is now available and published by Pen and Sword Books. It is the most definitive account to date of Grace’s life and also sheds new light on her equally fascinating wider family and ancestors, giving us a better understanding of the real woman behind her notorious persona.
Header image: Ville d’Avray, the Pond and the Cabassud House by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1840. WikiArt.
Today we are going to take a look at the French village of Ville d’Avray, where Grace Dalrymple Elliott ended her days. In the eighteenth-century Grace had been known as a notorious courtesan and mistress of the Earl of Cholmondeley, the Prince of Wales (when he was young and handsome) and Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc d’Orléans. The Prince was the reputed father of her daughter, Georgiana, although Cholmondeley was the man who brought her up as if she was his own.
But, by the time the Regency ended and her former lover took the throne as King George IV, Grace’s heyday had passed. Elderly and in ill-health she left England and settled instead in Ville d’Avray, a quiet village in between Paris and Versailles, where she died in 1823.
Originally a rural village, with copious vineyards on its exposed hillsides, it was transformed by the nearby Versailles, and the royal palace there. The forest, La forêt de Fausses-Reposes, which surrounded the village was used for hunting and, until the French Revolution, the Fontaine du Roy provided drinking water to the French royal family when they were at Versailles (it was known to provide the best drinking water in the area around Paris). The large pond on the edge of the village was connected to another royal residence, that of the Château de Saint-Cloud, by an underground aqueduct. The Parc de Saint-Cloud is still connected via that aqueduct, and water from the pond at Ville d’Avray flows to the ponds and waterfalls of Saint-Cloud, and the forest at Ville d’Avray eventually merges into the scenery of the Parc de Saint-Cloud.
In 1789 Marc-Antoine Thierry gained the title of Baron and began to build a château and paid for a new church to be built. The construction began just three days before the fall of the Bastille and, although Thierry fell a victim to the Revolution (he was assassinated in the Abbaye prison during the September massacres in 1792), these buildings have survived.
Following the Revolutionary years Ville d’Avray gradually became more residential and people from all disciplines of the arts fell under its charm and spent time living there. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), a well-known landscape artist, lived in the village for many years and left behind may fine paintings of the pond and forest on the edge of Ville d’Avray. Although all but one of his paintings shown here date from many years after Grace died, they can’t be that much different from the scenery she would have known and recognised from her last home.
If you would like to know more about Grace, our biography, An Infamous Mistress: the Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, is now available for pre-order at Amazon and elsewhere and due to be published by Pen and Sword in January 2016.
Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.
The 15th of May marks the anniversary of the death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Georgian Era courtesan and reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ daughter, Georgiana Augusta Frederica.
Grace died in Ville d’Avray, Paris, in 1823, having lived a long and tumultuous life filled with adventure and experiencing both the highs and the lows of the society of her age. Although she is best remembered as a demi-rep, there is so much more to her than that: she was not merely a fashion icon and the mistress of titled men, but a strong woman in her own right, one who lived upon her own terms. Sadly though, at the end of her life, Grace had little left; her one remaining close family relative was her young grand-daughter who she adored, and Grace’s dying regret was that she had nothing but her best wishes to leave her.
As long-term readers of our blog may know, we have written a biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the product of many years of research into her life, which will be published by Pen and Sword. It contains much information that is new to Grace’s story, and some rarely seen illustrations and pictures too; our book is also a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, interspersed with the fascinating lives her maternal and paternal family led across the globe. It is both the story of Grace’s life and her family history.
An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott will be published in January 2016, and is available for pre-order from this summer.
If you would like to be kept informed in the meantime, please do consider subscribing to our blog where, alongside our remit of ‘blogging about anything and everything to do with the Georgian Era’, we will also now post regular updates on the progress of our book.